Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Things Only Adults Notice In The Kissing Booth Series

In August, Netflix will release the third and final film in "The Kissing Booth" series, which adapts the young adult novels of the same name by Beth Reekles. "The Kissing Booth" follows Elle Evans (Joey King), a high school junior whose lifelong friendship with Lee Flynn (Joel Courtney) defines much of who she is as a person. Elle and Lee have friendship rules they ratified and memorized as children, and most of them still hold true — but when Elle's semi-dormant crush on Lee's older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi), gets more intense, Elle becomes caught between remaining loyal to her bestie and falling head over heels in love.

"The Kissing Booth" series is primarily targeted at Zoomers, though it invokes romantic comedy tropes dating back decades. Like most media aimed at a younger audience, "The Kissing Booth" has a few moments designed to catch the attention of the adults watching, including direct references to classic '90s rom-coms and even a cast member whose career is nearly synonymous with the genre. These are the moments only adults will notice in "The Kissing Booth" series.

Lee dresses as the Black Swan for Halloween

In the opening montage of "The Kissing Booth," as Elle explains her life story up to this point, she reveals that her best friend, Lee, loves to dress in drag for Halloween. He's shown wearing a black tutu and intense makeup, and anyone who's seen Darren Aronofsky's 2010 psychological thriller, "Black Swan," may experience a moment of déjà vu. Although the Black Swan is a major character in the ballet "Swan Lake," which was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in the late 1800s, Lee's version of the costume looks like a direct copy of the one worn by Natalie Portman's character in Aronofsky's film.

Portman won an Academy Award for her turn in "Black Swan," about a ballerina who suffers a mental breakdown during a production of "Swan Lake." The movie boasts high ratings on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, and it did well at the box office. However, it seems to have largely faded from the cultural zeitgeist, which means it's unlikely Gen Zers have seen it. Even if they have, they might not immediately register Lee's costume in "The Kissing Booth" as an apparent reference, whereas adults — especially millennials who saw "Black Swan" in theaters — will spot it immediately.

Warren is a bad guy from the start

After the opening montage in "The Kissing Booth," when Elle is sitting beside the Flynn family's pool, her phone chimes with a text message and she shouts, "Ew, perv! Hey, Lee, guess what Warren texted the entire school?" Elle never reveals what was in the text, but it's clear based on context clues that Warren (Byron Langley) sent an inappropriate photo en masse. Later in the movie, Elle tells him off for trying to hook up with her while she plays a video game at a party, and he attempts to get Elle to go with him at another party after she clearly says no. He gets beaten up by Noah for trying to force her. Clearly, Warren isn't a good guy.

Selfies of one's private parts have become synonymous with the app dating scene, which has become increasingly popular in the last decade, and unsolicited ones are sent more often than not. Not every adult has received such a photo in their life, but they likely know someone who has, or they accidentally saw one from Tom Hardy or Pete Wentz at some point during the MySpace heyday. 

The Kissing Booth shows wildly unrealistic LA traffic

"The Kissing Booth" series primarily takes place in Los Angeles, though there are brief forays to Boston in "The Kissing Booth 2," after Noah goes to Harvard. All of the characters drive, and there are several beautiful scenes of them driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, with the ocean stretching out behind them. These scenes are nice, but they're perhaps the only realistic driving sequences in the entire "Kissing Booth" series.

It's likely this would go over the heads of younger viewers, especially if they're too young to drive or if they've never been to Los Angeles and the surrounding area. Whenever Lee and Elle breeze into school without hitting any traffic, it seems downright impossible. According to ABC News, even with fewer cars on the road during the COVID-19 pandemic, L.A. was ranked the fifth most congested city in the U.S. in 2020, and had two of the worst traffic corridors in the entire country. Of course, traffic isn't interesting in a movie unless it can factor into the plot, but still, it's a noticeable break from reality in "The Kissing Booth."

Noah makes a classic Aristocats reference

One of Noah Flynn's character flaws in "The Kissing Booth" series is that he gets into a lot of fights. Sometimes, this is because he's defending someone he loves, like Lee or Elle, but other times it seems to be just because someone looked at him the wrong way. Before they get together, Elle confronts Noah about his fights, and he tells her, "I don't start fights. I only finish them."

It may not be a direct quote, but adults who grew up in the heyday of Disney animated features will likely recognize it. That's because Marie, the white kitten with the iconic pink bow from "The Aristocats," said something very similar: "Ladies don't start fights, but they can finish them!" Younger "The Kissing Booth" audiences who have seen this classic Disney movie may also recognize the reference (which doesn't seem intentional, but might be), but the adults in the room are likely to have a more immediate response to it. 

Noah is probably naked during this phone call

After she gets stood up on a date in "The Kissing Booth," Elle learns that Noah told the guy to stay away from her, which she perceives as him extending his big brother duties to her. She isn't impressed by his overprotectiveness, so she calls him to tell him off once she gets home. As the scene cuts between each of them in their bedrooms, Noah is seen sitting at his desk, shirtless. Then he puts his legs up, and it seems like he might actually just be naked. His waist and hips aren't visible, so he could be wearing shorts or boxers or even briefs, but the scene definitely implies that he's in his birthday suit.

Although "The Kissing Booth" series doesn't shy away from the horniness of its teen protagonists, and the characters are shown in the aftermath of having sex, Noah shows a lot of skin here. Younger viewers may not think he's naked under his desktop, but adults will probably wonder, at the very least. 

The OMGs are an ode to the Plastics

Among a slew of references to teen movies of yore, "The Kissing Booth" even has its own Plastics. Elle calls a trio of popular girls the OMG girls — because their names are Olivia, Mia, and Gwyneth — and the way they walk into the cafeteria in their first scene is immediately reminiscent of a similar trio of young ladies in "Mean Girls." Elle doesn't join their ranks and change herself to be popular, like Lindsay Lohan's character in the Tina Fey-directed 2004 movie. But she sits with the OMG girls at lunch from time to time and even convinces them to participate in the kissing booth fundraiser, though they're reluctant about it.

Since it was released 17 years ago, "Mean Girls" has its own unofficial day (October 3), a Broadway musical, and a direct-to-video sequel. It's become an entire phenomenon on its own since its initial release, so of course modern teen movies are likely to reference it. The OMG girls may not be as outwardly cruel or seemingly powerful as the Plastics, but that's actually a good thing.

The lead OMG dresses like Cher from Clueless

Lead OMG girl Mia (Jessica Sutton) plays fast and loose with the school uniform in "The Kissing Booth," much like seemingly all of the characters (though none more so than she and the other OMG girls). Mia's outfits, in particular, evoke another popular high school girl from a teen comedy: Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) from "Clueless." This 1995 hit has since become a cult classic with a TV series, comics, books, PC games, and more taking up the torch. 

Cher is a rich girl in Beverly Hills with an automated closet and an outfit planning tool that was the stuff of dreams in the '90s, and Mia seems to take several pages directly from her book. She favors patterned blazers, noticeable jewelry, loose hair, and carrying her schoolbooks and supplies, rather than carrying a bag or backpack. Mia never dons the yellow suit Cher cosplayers favor in "The Kissing Booth," but anyone who was obsessed with "Clueless" as an adolescent will spot the inspiration.

Elle's accidental face paint makes her look like Braveheart

Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" came out in 1995, which means it's older than "The Kissing Booth" star Joey King by four years. It's unlikely most Zoomers have seen the Scottish war film, though "Braveheart" is referenced directly in the first "Kissing Booth" movie. When Elle accidentally gets covered in paint, one of the jocks points out that she looks like a "hot Braveheart." Even with a direct quote calling it out, younger viewers aren't likely to understand what's happening.

Adults, on the other hand, likely remember "Braveheart" promotional materials and trailers, even if they never saw the movie itself. The movie won five Academy Awards in 1996, including Best Picture, and it's rated 78 percent "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes. "Braveheart" had a moment in pop culture history to itself, but "The Kissing Booth" audiences weren't alive when it happened and probably don't know anything about it now.

Elle has this in common with a Julia Stiles character

In 1999's "10 Things I Hate About You," the first tender moment between Patrick (Heath Ledger) and Kat (Julia Stiles) takes place after she gets too drunk at a party, dances on a table, hits her head on a chandelier and passes out. Patrick carries her outside to a set of swings and the pair have an actual conversation, after which she throws up on his shoes. It's a turning point in the movie, and it's one of the most remembered scenes in the beloved rom-com.

"The Kissing Booth" references this moment with a similar plot development. At a party, Elle drinks too much and starts dancing on a table, then tries to take off her clothes to cool down. She loudly proclaims that everyone should go skinny-dipping in the pool, then gets dizzy and falls off the table. She's rescued by Noah, who carries her to his room so she can get some sleep. He sleeps in the guest room, for propriety's sake, though he does give her one of his football jerseys since she stripped out of her dress. This, too, is a turning point for the couple, who up until this point have mostly antagonized each other — much like Patrick and Kat in "10 Things."

Molly Ringwald plays Mrs. Flynn

In the 1980s, Molly Ringwald was the darling of teen romantic comedies. Her performances in the John Hughes films "Sixteen Candles" (1984), "The Breakfast Club" (1985), and "Pretty in Pink" (1986) are still considered iconic, even as aspects of Hughes' films have been called out through the Me Too movement. Ringwald was part of the "Brat Pack," and has been a regular on The CW's "Riverdale" since 2017. In "The Kissing Booth," she plays Lee's and Noah's mom, identified only as Mrs. Flynn.

Although Ringwald is a recognizable face for adults who remember her early career, younger "The Kissing Booth" fans may not know who she is outside of "Riverdale." Still, it's a smart casting decision, because it ties "The Kissing Booth" to past teen rom-coms that many people still love. Another Netflix rom-com series, "To All the Boys I've Loved Before," did something similar by referencing Hughes' films and even including brief clips of them. Those films were formative for many, and Ringwald is a huge part of that legacy.

A key Kissing Booth song was written for another teen rom-com

A running joke in "The Kissing Booth" is that the yearbook guy will take photos of anything, no matter how embarrassing or awful. At prom, which Elle, Lee, and his girlfriend Rachel (Meganne Young) attend as juniors, the yearbook guy's photos are all over the place. The prom theme is "memories," and the black and white photos are pretty striking. As the characters walk into the ballroom for the actual dance, a cover of "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds plays.

This classic song was originally written for "The Breakfast Club," and it plays during the opening and closing credits of that movie, which stars Molly Ringwald and other members of the "Brat Pack." Including it in "The Kissing Booth" feels obvious, because of the prom theme, but it's also another way that the Netflix series references past romantic comedies and teen movies, putting it in conversation with these lasting favorites.

That's not how college applications work

The major plot in "The Kissing Booth 2" revolves around Elle applying for college. She and Lee agreed when they made their rules as kids that they would go to college together at UC Berkeley, but Noah points out that Elle applying to just one school is foolish. The average college-bound student applies to a handful of schools, at least, but Noah also wants her to consider moving to Boston so they can be together again. Long distance sucks, and these two go through a lot of pain because of the miles between them in the second movie.

However, the college application process as depicted in "The Kissing Booth 2" is totally unrealistic. Elle and Lee apply to UC Berkeley using paper applications, which feels like a relic when most schools prefer (or require) digital applications now, and she spends what seems to be most of her senior spring finalizing her Boston applications. This completely ignores the reality of application deadlines, which are typically in December or January. The most unrealistic moment, however, is after Elle, Lee, and Rachel walk at graduation, then reveal whether or not they've gotten into college. Given that undergraduate programs typically release decisions in April, and high school students typically graduate in June, this makes absolutely no sense. Younger audiences may not notice or care, but anyone who's even looked into the college application process will likely be irked by this totally out-of-touch portrayal.